Reorganizing anthropology at ASU

Inside Higher Ed reports on the reorganization of anthropology at Arizona State University into the new School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

On Tuesday Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution & Social Change officially opened for learning. It's the outcome of a reorganization of the institution's anthropology department that's been almost two years in the making. While many faculty members at the university are pleased with prospects for interdisciplinary collaboration that come along with the change, others are concerned that anthropology as a discipline is getting the short end of the evolutionary stick.

Seems like a very interesting development, potentially rooting anthropology at the center of interdisciplinary research in social science. In other universities (not mine) it often seems that anthropology is treated as peripheral to social sciences like economics and political science.

The article does cite some detractors:

Linda Wolfe, the chair of anthropology at East Carolina University, who holds the biological seat on the anthropology association's Executive Board, cautioned that winning grants may pose a challenge for some anthropology scholars at Arizona State's restructured school. "Grants, like those at NSF -- there are a few that can be awarded to interdisciplinary programs, but most of them are for mainline disciplines," she said Tuesday.
Upon reviewing the mission of the school, Wolfe added: "This kind of program isn't going to strengthen anthropology, it's going to destroy anthropology.... I think their rankings will go down because it's not an anthropology program anymore, it's an interdisciplinary mish-mash."

The ASU school has a news page that lists many of the new hires and some of the grants of continuing faculty. It seems to me that ultimate success depends on whether people develop links, value each others' work, and successfully colonize other programs with their students. But in the bureaucratic battle of securing continuing university support, having your own school can't hurt.

I find the school's name interesting. It certainly works for the strengths that ASU is trying to accentuate. And it certainly works for me -- as a paleoanthropologist I naturally view our evolutionary history as the fundamental basis for human behavior and culture. On the other hand, I wonder how many anthropologists would approve of the idea that "human evolution" and "social change" are intricately linked? Or does listing them both imply that they are parallel processes? Hmmm....

I got the story via this Savage Minds post by Kerim, who adds some comments as well.